Actually, Bob, they do know it’s Christmas (we checked)

Yeah, Bob, they know The answer to the rhetorical question posed by the Band Aid single, ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’, is broadly yes. Christmas Day is a public holiday… Read more

Fort Lauderdale’s law against feeding the homeless still isn’t America’s dumbest

States of criminality A 90-year-old Florida man feeding the homeless was arrested under a Fort Lauderdale law which makes it illegal to share food with members of the public. Other… Read more

You can still book your flight to Mars

Space to dream Richard Branson’s dream of commercial space flights has suffered a setback after a prototype craft crashed. But others are still offering opportunities for adventure… — Golden Spike… Read more

Rochester’s special qualities, and the price of Ebola.com

What’s special about Rochester What is special about Rochester and Strood? — Rochester has the second oldest cathedral and school in Britain, after Canterbury. — Medway, the unitary authority area… Read more

David Cameron’s not the only one in trouble over morris dancing

Dirty dancing David Cameron was accused of causing racial offence by posing with blacked-up Morris dancers, though it was pointed out that the tradition dates from 16th-century jobless labourers covering… Read more

A Norwegian troll – not a Swedish one

Dealing with trolls the Swedish way

How to deal with a troll In Scandinavian mythology, trolls were shady creatures who lived below ground and varied in size from giants (in Iceland) to dwarfs (in Sweden). They… Read more

Empress Josephine of France

Don’t worry Brooks Newmark: paisley was sexy once...

Paisley power Paisley pyjamas were in the news. While associated with the town in Renfrewshire, whose mills produced the patterns from 1805, what we know as paisley was first popularised in France thanks… Read more

A cannabis plant growing in a garden in Cologne, Germany. (Photo: OLIVER BERG/AFP/Getty Images)

How does your cannabis grow?

Pot plants A 65-year-old Devon woman rang a BBC gardening show to enquire about a mystery plant only to be told it was a cannabis plant. Some other places cannabis plants have… Read more

(Photo: Stefan Heunis/Getty)

Oscar Pistorius has received a Draconian sentence (yes, really)

Draconian sentence Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius was cleared of murder but convicted of culpable homicide, the equivalent of manslaughter in English law. — The concept of a lesser charge of killing without intent… Read more

Tories weren't quite sure about the Union 300 years ago, either

Birth of a nation A reminder of how England and Scotland came to be one country: — Proposals had been made throughout the 17th century, with English Whigs generally in… Read more

An undiplomatic history of British diplomatic dinners

In poor taste US Ambassador Matthew Barzun attracted the ire of chefs for complaining that he had been served lamb and potatoes too often since arriving in Britain. Some others… Read more

Six rivals for the name Isis

Not in their name The BBC decided to start calling the Islamic terror group Isis by the acronym IS instead. Some organisations who are retaining the name: — Isis Equity… Read more

Workers carry out cleaning and maintenance work on the clock face of Big Ben in 2007 (Photo: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Who cleans skyscrapers?

Tough at the top The clocks on Big Ben were cleaned by abseiling window-cleaners. Some other big cleaning/painting jobs: — Repainting the Forth Railway Bridge used to be a metaphor… Read more

The coffin for Tutankhamun's viscera. The boy king - himself a product of incest - married his half-sister. Not that any of that was an accident. Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Lord Gowrie, Mark Simmonds: who had more right to complain?

Ministerial needs Home Office minister Mark Simmonds resigned, complaining he couldn’t afford to live in London on his junior minister’s salary of £89,435. His resignation echoes that of Lord Gowrie,… Read more

A picture taken on May 29, 2010 shows Ru

Hold on to your umbrella, Mr Putin: what the Russians lose without British trade

Off the shelf How do we boycott Putin? Some things we traded with Russia, by value, between March and May 2014: Export Mineral fuels £23m Nuclear reactors, boilers and machinery… Read more

Hilary Benn (Photo: Getty)

Which party has the most MPs’ children in Parliament?

Commons inheritance Emily Benn, granddaughter of Tony and niece of Hilary, has won the right to stand for Labour in Croydon South. Which party produces the most political dynasties? Current… Read more

What Germans are worst at

What Germans do worst Some things Germans aren’t very good at: — Making reliable car engines. According to a survey by Warranty Direct last year, Audi came bottom, BMW seventh from bottom and Volkswagen… Read more

(Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty)

So are public-sector workers really underpaid?

Public benefit Public sector unions held a strike over pay. How well are public-sector workers paid compared with their counterparts in the private sector? — Comparing jobs like for like,… Read more


The public sector's daftest prizes

All must have prizes Paul Pugh, the £104,000-a-year chief executive of the Passport Office, was nominated for ‘leader of the year’ in the government’s Investors in People Awards, in spite… Read more

Greenpeace's jetsetter isn't the only environmentalist who loves to fly

Green wings It was revealed that Pascal Husting, Greenpeace’s international programme director, commutes 250 miles by air from his home in Luxembourg to his office in Amsterdam several times a… Read more

The bits of Magna Carta that David Cameron won’t want taught in schools

The not-so-great charter David Cameron wants every child to be taught about Magna Carta. Some bits he might want to leave out: — ‘If one who has borrowed from the… Read more

If you thought this World Cup was weird, take a look at Brazil 1950

Old world Brazil has struggled to get ready for the World Cup, even though it hosted it before, in 1950. Some oddities of that tournament: — There was no final,… Read more

Is it normal for monarchs to abdicate? Yes!

Game of thrones The Spanish king, Juan Carlos, announced that he is to abdicate in favour of his son, Prince Felipe. Is the Queen becoming unusual among Europe’s remaining monarchs… Read more

If Alex Salmond is cutting bureaucracy, why does he have so many quangos?

Escape committees An LSE/Institute for Government report estimated the cost of Scottish independence at £2.7 billion, a sum arrived at by multiplying the 180 bodies which would need to be… Read more

A Romanian neighbour? Most people wouldn’t even notice

Parliamentary privilege Some facts and figures about the European Parliament, according to the parliament: — The parliament annually costs €3.10 per citizen in EU member states (compared with €7.30 for… Read more